It’s no Diablo, but RAW: Realms of Ancient War is still an enjoyable hack ‘n’ slash experience
It’s now law that, whenever you discuss a hack ‘n’ slash game, you must mention Diablo. OK, so this isn’t 100 percent true, but I challenge you to find a review, news post or preview of a hack ‘n’ slasher on a video game website that doesn’t mention Blizzard’s behemoth franchise. It is the series that every other dungeon crawler is compared to, and rightly so.
RAW: Realms of Ancient War does not compare to Diablo, but to even make the comparison is a little harsh, given the difference in manpower available to both Blizzard and RAW developer Wizarbox. If you can forgive its buggy moments and its strange omissions, RAW is a pretty enjoyable way to spend a few evenings.
A war rages between four separate realms, and after huge bloodshed, the four kings come together to make peace. However, something evil happens, and only three of the kings come home, each too petrified to discuss what happened to the fourth. Around this time, monsters start to appear. In response, our hero sets out to discover what’s causing all of this.
After choosing a class and heading out into the world, it quickly becomes apparent that RAW follows the bog-standard code of the hack ‘n’ slash genre. Enemies attack you, you chop them to bits, you use special powers on them, you occasionally level up and upgrade your skills, and you continue onwards. Repeat until fin.
That’s not to say that RAW isn’t worth playing, as it pulls off a good portion of what it set out to accomplish fairly well. Attacks feel powerful, the action is extremely fast-paced, and you’re constantly fending off enemies left, right and center, with huge attacks sending them flying in all directions. You can also possess certain enemies for a short time, and lay into other enemies for the laughs.
Most of the elements you’d expect to be in a hack ‘n’ slash are here, too. Skill trees are present, albeit perhaps not as detailed or expansive as we would have liked. RAW‘s world are detailed and winding, with plenty to see and do. The story, too, is enjoyable to follow along with, and made us want to continuously push forward, even when things got a little repetitive.
The added co-op is a nice inclusion, too. At any point, a second player can jump into the game locally, and help out the main player. Throw in online leaderboards and achievements, and you’ve got a great way to while away the hours.
But RAW does slip up in numerous areas too, clearly not taking into account elements that past hackers (can we say Diablo now?) have proven necessary. For example, while you can set an arrow down to follow to the next quest, there is no overmap to check out at all, which is really essential in this sort of game.
Another strange omission is the ability to hold down the mouse button to attack. Instead, you’re asked to continuously click to attack enemies, which is annoying for two reasons: 1) it’s easy to miss the enemy and make your hero walk into space instead, and 2) clicking over and over again is a bit annoying.
The lives system, too, is rather odd. There are checkpoints which you can respawn at, but if you die too many times, you run out of “soulstones,” which are essentially lives. Lose all your lives and you have to start from the beginning of the current level which, towards the latter parts of the game, can be rather irritating.
Finally, RAW has lots of little bugs here and there, such as enemies getting stuck in the world, animations not playing out properly, and the hero getting caught in hordes of baddies without any means of escape. It really brings the action down when you’re feeling immersed in play, and then you suddenly spot a goblin creature caught on a fence, flailing around madly.
RAW does a lot of things right, and if you like your dungeon crawlers, you could do far worse. It’s just that there are other games that do it much better, and it’s difficult to see past its failings a lot of the time.